Book Review: Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.
Title:Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.Print Length: 148 pages ISBN: 0802870775
Cornelius Plantinga Jr., president emeritus of Calvin Theological Seminary, provides a refreshing and engaging resource for preachers. Reading for Preaching serves preachers well in a variety of ways. First, Plantinga draws the preacher's attention to a whole world of insight for the art of proclamation. His central premise shows that preachers are helped in their mission not only by theologians, but also by "storytellers, biographers, poets, and journalists." Plantinga writes, "Like theologians, they write about sin and grace, bondage and redemption, sorrow and joy, and the hunger for justice." As a result, Platinga aspires and succeeds to unveil the vast resources available to preachers - for the strengthening of their work - resources which remain untapped by many preachers.
In Plantinga's focus is a balance which keeps the main thing (theological insight and study), the main thing. But the real thrust and strength of the book is the focus on rich and winsome writers who can, even in ordinary ways, inject a certain flair or rhetoric into the preacher's repertoire. Plantinga clearly does not argue for an equality between theological and secular reading for the improvement of preaching. Instead, he holds out a variety of reading tools, in addition to theological study and reading, for the expansion of articulate preaching.
Plantinga highlights the impact of a broad reading plan to improve diction, deepen imagination, sharpen attentive illustrations, clarify points, and tune the preacher's ear toward a more robust approach to preaching preparation. In sum, the book provides an overview of these benefits. But the real value is in the way Plantinga goes about displaying these benefits. In addition to providing the propositional values of expansive reading for preaching, Plantinga illustrates his appreciation for prose by detailing a number of examples which apply. This approach does not only inform the reader, but also peaks his interest to utilize many of them. I attest to this myself as I was motivated to read, not just more literature, but especially the literature to which the author refers. As a final compliment, an alphabetical and uncategorized Selected Reading List appends the work. The list provides a good start for preachers who need to read. However, it will not satisfy every readers need for an long organized reading list.
As a preacher, Plantinga has convinced me (again) of something I find myself convinced of time and time again. The value of reading is immeasurable to astute preachers. It has been immeasurable to great preachers of the past and is still to the small preachers of the present. Therefore, Reading for Preaching is a recommended read. The average reader can complete the book in a couple of hours time.
A Curiosity Noted on the Side A curious observation is the author's strong preference for using the the feminine pronoun she in reference to preachers. Throughout the first three-quarters of the book, Plantinga uses (I think exclusively) this pronoun. Not he. Nothe/she. He uses she. Then, in the last third of the book, the masculine pronoun makes an appearance a few times, but remains inferior to she. I imagine this curious detail will catch the attention of nearly every reader. Don't know why.
But still. Read this book. It will grow your appreciation for reading, and it is, in itself, good reading for preaching.